The 1966 National Historic Preservation Act mandated that each state establish a historic preservation office and prepare comprehensive surveys of historic properties. In West Virginia, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), part of the Division of Culture and History in Charleston, serves as a repository for the information collected in such surveys.
Since the 1970s architectural and history surveys have been conducted in West Virginia to help identify architectural and historic properties that currently exist in the state. The West Virginia Historic Property Inventory (HPI) records basic information such as building descriptions, brief histories, and locational information on buildings, structures, and objects. This information is stored in a database as well as on archival HPI forms with an attached archival photograph.
The inventory provides a foundation for identifying properties that may be worthy of preservation, promotion, recognition, and protection. Architectural and history surveys help identify significant properties that may qualify for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Information collected in the inventory also helps cultural resource professionals make informed decisions about the protection of West Virginia's historic built environment. The HPI provides a basis for preservation and planning at all levels of the government and private sector. Government agencies, professional preservation consultants and the general public use the inventory to help make decisions regarding land-use plans, urban and economic development, road-improvement projects, and tourism.
Inclusion of your property in the West Virginia HPI does not automatically nominate your property to the National Register. Inclusion in the inventory conveys no special status, rights or benefits to owners of these properties. Properties documented in the inventory have no restrictions placed on them by the SHPO, nor does the inventory require maintenance or public access.
In most cases, surveys are conducted by preservation professionals who drive public roads and record properties that meet certain historic requirements. Surveyors do not enter private property without permission from the property owner.
The inventory is not a comprehensive list of all historic buildings and structures in West Virginia. Some of the information in the inventory may no longer be accurate as some of the properties have been altered since they were first recorded or they no longer exist. The majority of the properties included in the inventory are privately owned and are not open to the public.